THE INDUSTRIAL dispute over pay for lecturers at Scotland’s further education colleges is set to intensify further after talks between both sides have broken down and the union is now taking steps to escalate its actions.
For the third time this year lecturers at Shetland College together with colleagues from other colleges around the country are on strike today (Wednesday) demanding a fair cost of living pay increase.
Colleges Scotland Employment Association said they were “exasperated” at the union’s repeated refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations, and accused the union of gambling with students’ futures, a claim that was strongly refuted by local EIS-FELA branch secretary Andrew Anderson.
He said resolving the dispute was within management’s gift after the union had reduced its pay claim several times over recent months.
The further education lecturers are asking for four per cent over three years (2017 to 2020) whereas management is offering two per cent over the same period.
Union members will now be balloted on additional actions short of a strike, such as a boycott, which, if voted in, means that lecturers will assess student’s work and give them feedback but will not enter results into college systems.
Anderson said this was “the only tool available” to unions to force Colleges Scotland back to the negotiating table.
“We are asking for four per cent over three years, and bearing in mind that teachers have just refused a pay offer of nine per cent of three years, we really don’t think our ask in unreasonable,” he said.
“The portrayal that we are greedy is quite galling to lecturing staff. Lecturers have the absolute best interest of students at heart; there is no doubt.
“If management would come back to the negotiating table with a reasonable offer this dispute could be resolved very quickly.
“It is management’s refusal to accept that we are public sector. Our pay deal should reflect what support workers in colleges are getting. It is the fact that we are being treated differently that is creating the real problem.”
John Gribben of Colleges Scotland said: “EIS-FELA is balloting their members to escalate short of strike action and has vowed to withhold assessment results from colleges, which would prevent students from graduating and progressing to other college or university courses.
“This is a gamble by the EIS-FELA designed to get the Scottish Government to intervene as they calculate that will get them more money, but they are recklessly gambling with students’ futures.
“Colleges have now made six improved pay offers to try and resolve the pay dispute and end the unnecessary EIS-FELA strikes, but, yet again, they have not accepted our latest offer, nor will they seek the views of their membership.”
The next national colleges strike is scheduled for 21 March.